I appreciate the reasonable case for the defence, and I do agree with some things – a clutch of half a dozen games doesn’t necessarily tell us much about another clutch of games 6 months hence, so it’s entirely possible we can go on and have a great world cup.
But I don’t agree that consciously or unconsciously we weren’t really focused on the 6N – on the contrary I think we were absolutely gunning for a slam. We didn’t come out and say it, but a big theme in 2018 had been that we had overcome the underdog preference – we were going into big games as favourites and winning. And I think that’s why the England match was quite so traumatic for the squad, and Schmidt was right about that. We weren’t pipped at the post, we were absolutely miles away.
I don’t agree that it was down to breaks not falling our way – in fact non-Irish rugby twitter were united in saying that the ref absolutely rode Italy out of the game against us! Things could have been even worse.. And against England and Wales our performances were so uncompetitive that catching breaks was almost irrelevant..
And on the question of being fired up – I don’t think you can disentangle this from performances. I’m personally not a big believer in ‘wanting it more’ as a very good explanation of anything much at the top level of professional sport – ‘being technically superior’ and ‘having better tactics’ are better predictors of success. And confidence, and the kind of inner conviction that enables top teams to stay in matches and win, comes from success
I agree with ronk – you can’t stand still, other teams and coaches watch matches after all! I thought the scary thing was how frozen we looked when things weren’t working – the confidence seeping from the players was almost visible, as they kept on blindly going through the same misfiring routines. And sorry to invoke Kidney, but I just remember so clearly watching Ireland in despair in his latter years, things going wrong on the pitch and it would cut to him in the stand, watching, frozen in place, no idea how to fix it – I couldn’t shake off the echo this 6N.
Anyway hopefully I’m just over-reacting massively, certainly no team is owed anything and maybe I’m overthinking. (also sorry to come into your room uninvited and post essays